Akron, OH

Success stories: How Akron Zoo plays its role in animal conservation

Angela Kervorkian-Wattle

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AKRON — As part of its conservation efforts, the Akron Zoo, a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Species Survival Plan (SSP), is working together with their key partners to save endangered species— and have witnessed many successes in their efforts.

The snow leopards are one of those success stories, thanks to the efforts of the zoo and AZA in breeding the feline and donating to the Snow Leopard Trust.

In the wild, snow leopards are mainly found in Central Asia, with approximately only 4,000 to 6,500 of them left. These mountainous cats are constantly under human-related threats such as poaching, loss of habitat and prey, mining activities and resource competition.

The zoo is also working to help re-establish the red wolf population. These predators are officially extinct in the wild. The clearing of forested habitats and aggressive predator control programs nearly brought the species to extinction in the ’70s. In the ’80s, conservationists brought around 14 remaining red wolves into captive settings to take part in breeding programs. Currently, there are approximately 200 red wolves in AZA zoos and breeding facilities.

Another species saved from near extinction is the partula snail. These snails were once common in the South Pacific, but by the 1960s, a non-native African land snail had made its home after escaping cultivation programs and began infesting local farms.

In an attempt to curb the population of the African snails, another species was introduced— the rosy wolf snail. Unfortunately, these carnivorous snails preferred the partula snail and almost wiped out the entire species.

The Akron Zoo is one of about six zoos that are working on increasing the partula snail population. The zoo has established a healthy colony that averages 250 to 500 individual snails. In cooperation with the St. Louis Zoo, some of the snails will join others from zoos in the United States and eventually take a one-way trip to Tahiti, where they will be released into the wild.

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